Lessons Learned At The Playground (And Why There’s No Shame In Being Shy)

By Michelle Zunter

Through a haze of juice boxes, scrapes, screams, giggles, and chattering parents, I find myself at the playground again.

We come here all the time. It’s a buffet of varying parenting styles and personalities. There are the toddlers, who are adorable and cheating peril at every turn. There are the elementary age kids, who are amusingly precocious.

And then there’s my child. The “shy” child.

The playground has been our sanctuary since my daughter was a baby. It started out as just somewhere to go but it ended up playing a very important role in my child’s social development.

From the time she was 2 years old until about 4, my daughter was extremely shy. I’m talking hiding in a corner and covering her face when friends or even family would try to speak to her shy.

It was worrying.

And then there were the birthdays. For some reason, whenever anyone sang my daughter Happy Birthday or we went to a party where this song was being sung – she would scream bloody murder and ruin the whole thing. It became so stressful that I avoided birthday parties altogether for a period of time.

It was embarrassing. It was frustrating. It sucked.

On top of this struggle, the unsolicited comments from people about how my daughter must be autistic or have Aspergers because of her refusal to make direct eye contact at times was incredibly difficult to digest.

Our pediatrician had no such concerns. She was just very shy.

So I persisted with the playground trips. I thought it would help. We went twice, sometimes three times a week. It became our ritual. My daughter wasn’t in daycare or school at the time, so the playground was her place to learn how to play with others, share, and have conversations with kids her own age.

Over time, my daughter started making friends. Over time, came the play dates. Over time, she started coming out of her shell.

At age 4, my daughter went to preschool. The first few days she was in her impossibly shy and difficult mood. I worried.

And then it clicked. After the first week of preschool, my daughter completely changed. She was happy, outgoing and making more friends. She was still slightly shy at times, but not like before. Now she was thriving.

The rest is history, really. She’s confident. She loves life.

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